WV’s Little Italy: discover European flavor in the mountains
A little taste of Italy is hiding in the West Virginia hills.
Thousands of Italian-Americans settled in North-Central West Virginia in the early 1900s to work in the coal mines, and their European traditions have been carried down from generation to generation. You can still discover the Italian influences in the region’s festivals and foods.
Here are some places where you can savor a taste of Italy (without boarding a plane):
1. Feast of the 7 Fishes Festival, Fairmont
Inspired by a comic strip by local Robert Tinnell, the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival fills downtown Fairmont the second Saturday in December. Celebrate the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of a “meatless” (fish is obviously okay!) holiday feast with cooking demonstrations, contests, local vendors, and traditional music and dance.
2. West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival, Clarksburg
Thousands of people visit Clarksburg during the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival every year. Highlights of this 3-day celebration of Italian culture include a grand parade, fritti sale, meatball eating competition, wine garden and tasting area, with a variety of entertainers and musical performers.
Before the festival, you can test your skills at the Pasta Cook-Off (which also includes the canned pepper, homemade wine, and hot pepper eating contests), golf and bocce tournaments.
3. Oliverio Italian Style Peppers, Clarksburg
The Oliverio family has been canning Antoinette Oliverio’s “peppers in Italian sauce” recipes since 1972. Now you can order 4 different varieties right from their website– hot, medium hot, sweet and red hot– as well as peppers, cauliflower in vinegar and pizza and pasta sauces.
4. Muriale’s, Fairmont
A 40-plus year Fairmont institution, Muriale’s is known for their Southern Italian-inspired family recipes and signature red sauce (the white clam sauce has a following, too). Try it on their lasagna, spaghetti, rigatoni and of course, meatballs. Muriale’s is also top-rated on Tripadvisor, a 2015 West Virginia Family-Owned Small Business of the Year and one of the 101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia.
5. Cascarelli’s Old Country Wine, Salem
Cascarelli’s is a small family operation that specializes in sweet wines made from Concord, Niagara and Catawba grapes, grown on 3 acres of land in Salem. Stop in for a tasting!
6. Country Club Bakery, Fairmont
Enjoy a pepperoni roll (made with a stick of pepperoni rather than slices, and no cheese) from the place where it all began! Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro is said to have baked the first pepperoni rolls at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont in 1927.
7. Minard’s Spaghetti Inn, Clarksburg
The name says it all. After 75 years, Minard’s is still known for its traditional spaghetti recipe, served out of the renovated (and expanded) family home.
8. Tomaro’s Bakery, Clarksburg
Tomaro’s has been in the baking business for more than 100 in the historic Glen Elk section of Clarksburg, and now the family-owned bakery ships their Italian breads, buns, pizza shells and pepperoni rolls worldwide.
9. Colasessano’s, Fairmont
How do you like your at pepperoni bun? At Colasessano’s, you can order it with “everything” (meat sauce, provolone, and mild, mixed or hot peppers), just sauce and cheese, or simply cheese. The restaurant, which has 2 locations in Fairmont, also serves pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and in-house gelato.
10. Julio’s Café, Clarksburg
Julio’s Café has been passed down through 3 generations since its opening in 1967, but not much else has changed over the years. The restaurant is still serving its home-style Calabrian cooking. Their marinara sauce and pasta e fagioli (“pasta and beans”) are house staples.
11. Marino Brothers, Clarksburg
Marino Brothers is known for their homemade Italian sausages, deli meats, cheeses and olives. Try ‘The Village Idiot’ sandwich, made with salami, cheese, pepperoni and ham on a toasted bun or the ‘Big John’ sausage.
12. Home Industry Bakery, Clarksburg
The official pepperoni roll supplier for Sheetz stores in WV, Home Industry Bakery opened in the 1980s in downtown Clarksburg. Their rolls come in 3 varieties– plain, cheese and hot pepper cheese.
13. Health Bread Company / D’Annunzio’s, Clarksburg
The D’Annunzio family has been baking bread in Clarksburg since the 1920s, and it has been passed down through generations. They’ve even expanded since their early days, but their staple favorite is their pepperoni roll.
What’s your favorite Italian indulgence in West Virginia?